First Call Fire station dedication turns into call to action
Members of the Blowing Rock Fire and Rescue knew that Sunday was going to be a busy day for them. They just didn't realize how busy.
Early Sunday morning, as the men and women of BRF&R prepared for the dedication and open house of Blowing Rock Fire Station No. 2, five miles south of Blowing Rock on U.S. Hwy 221, a devastating fire at a church just a half-mile from the new station had begun.
The Rev. Glen Luttrell, pastor of Blue Ridge Community Christian Church, later recalled how he had turned on the furnace of the small community church around 8 a.m. after an unusually chilly mid-October night with temperatures dipping into the mid-20s.
He expected 20 to 25 parishioners to arrive around 9 a.m., with many of them planning to also attend the grand opening of Fire Station #2.
A little while later Luttrell smelled smoke and after determining there was a fire, called 911.
An operations officer and an assistant fire chief were at Fire Station #2 preparing for the open house and dedication when the call came in. They were the first to arrive on the scene of the blaze.
"They didn't have a truck at the new station but both men had their personal fire gear with them," said Kent Graham, deputy fire chief of the BRF&R.
Soon they were joined by 21 members of the BRF&R, including five fire trucks and an ambulance from the unit, plus a few firefighters and trucks from the Foscoe and Boone Fire Departments and a Watauga Medics ambulance.
The fire was under control within a half hour of the arrival of the BRF&R and no one was injured in the blaze.
Tankers from the BRF&R made several trips to nearby Buffalo Camp Lake to retrieve additional water during the ordeal.
The post-blaze duties of putting up tarps, boarding the building and conducting an investigation into its source and the amount of damage incurred continued until 4:27 p.m.
The Watauga County Fire Marshal estimated the amount of damage to the church at $175,000.
The church was first built in 1922. It is on the same piece of land where a previous church, first built in the 1800s, stood.
Estimates on the percentage of damage to the building have ranged from 60 to 75 percent. There is damage to flooring, ceiling, walls and windows but the overall structure of the building appears to be undamaged.
Graham said this was not the first time that members of BRF&R were at Fire Station No. 2 and were the first to respond on a scene. A few months ago, a motorcyclist crashed on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Holloway Mountain Road while Graham and another rescue worker were working on the new building.
They arrived to assist the crash victim within minutes. On another occasion, a resident of the new station's neighborhood had a medical emergency while BRF&R personnel were putting finishing touches on the new station. Again, they were the first on the scene.
For the congregants of Blue Ridge Community Christian Church, there is solace in the knowledge that no one was hurt in the Sunday morning fire.
According to BRF&R officials, there is a possibility that the congregation will be able to meet at the new fire station once it officially opens on November 4.
Lutrell said he had planned to preach a sermon from the Old Testament book of Haggai on the topic of rebuilding the temple.